Joint custody was once hailed as the best possible co-parenting arrangement. But lately, some have questioned whether or not such an arrangement is really in the children’s best interests, at least in all cases. The constant back and forth, especially if the divorced parents live in separate cities, sometimes leave the children with little or no sense of “home.” Moreover, in some instances, the children may spend significant amounts of time in a less-than-welcoming environment.
But, largely by default, there is still a strong presumption for joint custody in Texas law. This phrase actually refers to both elements of child custody.
This element refers to the right to make important decisions on behalf of the children. According to the Standard Possession Order, both parents have input in these decisions. The obvious problem is that, in many cases, these conferences end in a 1-1 tie vote, one parent makes the decision, and the other parent’s input is essentially discounted.
One way to deal with this issue is to make decisions in advance. For example, instead of the generic language about the right to direct the religious upbringing of the children and the right to designate a physician, the order may state “The children will be raised Catholic” or “The primary care physician will be Dr. X.”
This phrase means the place where the children reside at a given moment. In the SPO, children spend about two-thirds of their time with the custodial parent, and one-third with the noncustodial parent. Bear in mind that the SPO is a default if the parents cannot agree otherwise.
This division does not apply in all cases, and most judges do not hesitate to limit visitation based on circumstances like:
- Children’s Age: Children under two are generally considered too young for overnights without Mom, and most decrees contain language to this effect.
- Parent’s Ability: If there is specific evidence that a parent is limited, for whatever reason, the judge will modify the orders.
- Abuse: Sometimes, supervised visitation at a neutral location is appropriate; other times, the children might be exchanged at a public place, like a fast-food restaurant or park.
In all these cases, the judge may also order parenting classes and other similar items. To remove these restrictions, the requesting party must normally file a motion to modify based on changed circumstances.
All child custody orders must be in the children’s best interest. For a free consultation with a McKinney family attorney who stands up for your legal interests, contact the Law Office of Bryan D. Perkins. After hours appointments are available.